Constipation is no fun. Have you ever experienced the uncomfortable feeling of not being able to relieve yourself properly? Have you worried about the next unsuccessful or painful toilet visit? Has constipation ruined a celebration or spoiled your holidays? If you have answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re not alone: in Europe, the prevalence of constipation in the general population is estimated at 10 to 20%. It is a widespread condition that negatively affects the quality of life of millions of sufferers.
Constipation can be generally defined as difficult, unsatisfactory, or infrequent defecation. For some people, it is a chronic problem, but constipation may also vary seasonally: overindulgence during festivities and changes in diet during holidays may lead to increased problems of constipation.
Constipation can affect everyone: young and old, but it is more common as people age. Half of adults over over 80 years of age suffer constipation. In older people, the predominant symptom of constipation is not necessarily fewer visits to the toilet, but rather more frequently straining. Women are more than twice as likely to suffer from constipation compared to men.
Time on the toilet: what is “normal”?
Frequency of bowel movement varies widely in the population, and it is considered normal to pass stools between three times a day and three times a week. Two of every three adults have a bowel frequency of once per day.
Healthcare experts generally consider that passing stool should take between 10 and 15 minutes. Taking this lower value of just 10 minutes and once a day, over an average lifetime of 80 years, we can estimate that every person ends up sitting on the toilet for more than 200 days during their lifetime. Therefore, considering how long we do spend on the toilet, it is worth finding out methods to relieve ourselves on the toilet, free of unnecessary complications.
What can I do to relieve constipation?
If you suffer from constipation, here are three easy recommendations to try:
- Think of your diet as medicine, to prevent and to ease constipation. In general, Europeans do not consume enough fibre. Eating sufficient fibre regularly, with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and whole grain, can help to relieve constipation. When taking more fiber, more fluid is also needed. Try to reach 2 liters of water a day. Be consistent with your routine: whether at work or during holidays, having sufficient fiber in your diet supports your microbiome, which helps with transit; increases the weight of your stool and speeds its passage through your intestines.
- Exercise regularly: try to physically move every day of the week. Physical activity increases muscle activity in your intestines, helping food-transit.
- Consider taking probiotics as part of your daily routine. The community of microorganisms in our gut, which is known as the microbiome, breaks down our food and influences gut movement. Consuming certain probiotic strains supports the gut-microbiome and can significantly increase stool frequency, which can relieve constipation. A survey of healthcare professionals found that 18% recommend probiotics to their patients with constipation. In general, the right probiotics can be considered safe and natural means to relieve constipation in adults.
We wish you joy and relief every single day of your 200 days on the toilet!
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